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Thirst for freedom in Sikkim

TANGLES AT TRI-JUNCTIONS-PART II

TOP NEWS-ENG-19-05-2020
Emperor Choygal Palden Thondup Namgyal (left) of Sikkim and Queen Hope Cooke. Photo: SCMP

India’s boundary dispute with Nepal came at a time when Indian and Chinese troops on border patrol skirmished briefly in the northeastern state of Sikkim neighboring China.

Though, India's defense ministry blamed "aggressive behavior on both sides", political analysts in Sikkim said that China keeps trying to fuel the bogey of a pro-independence sentiment in Sikkim.

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Undoubtedly, the monarchists, most of whom are members of the erstwhile Kingdom’s aristocracy and landed gentry, cherish the history of their tiny Himalayan state that was ruled by the Chogyals of the Namgyal dynasty for more than three centuries. There is still a large section of people in Sikkim which feels “betrayed and cheated” by the Kingdom’s annexation by India in 1975.

Also Read: TANGLES AT TRI-JUNCTIONS: PART I

Monarchists still reminisce about the ‘grand old days of the monarchy’ albeit in private, says a former Sikkim bureaucrat, who did not want to be named.

“There are people in Sikkim who still dream of Sikkim’s independence. As they feel betrayed by the merger,” the former bureaucrat told South Asian Monitor.

A handful of members of the former Sikkimese aristocracy-deeply religious and feudalin culture-have privately told this writer how “they still continue to recognize the institution of the Chogyal”.

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The institution of the Chogyals may have been abolished following Sikkim’s merger with India, but for the monarchists, the Chogyals still continue to exist, some of them told this writer.

“People still deeply hope for the impossible possibility of Sikkim’s independence and pray that people across the border in Tibet’s Chumbi Valley, where Sikkimese people have relatives though marriage and family ties, will raise their voice for Sikkim’s independence,” says a another retired Sikkim official, who had served under the last monarch.

There is a strong feeling of Sikkimese nationalism among a section of the people in Sikkim, says an editor of a leading regional daily newspaper, who did not want to be named.

Also Read: Nepal, a Shangri-La in a perpetual state of political  uncertainty

“The government of India has been able to bottle up Sikkimese nationalism by pouring in huge amounts of money into the state in the 45-years since its merger,” the editor told South Asian Monitor.

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“The activities of nationalist groups are under wraps. They only come over ground whenever there is financial crisis. Money is a major issue among the former feudal landed gentry. Since Sikkim’s merger with India, the common people too have become more assertive and have benefitted from the Indian government’s largesse,” the editor said.

Sikkim nationalists do not want to be subjects of China but they do want their state to revert back to being a sovereign country, the editor added.